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AI Writing Tools: The Coolest…Until They Aren’t

Originally published on CUInsight.

Can you feel it? We’re in a bubble, and it is expanding rapidly. What makes up this enveloping sphere?

AI writing tools. ChatGPT-powered chatbots.

Incredible technology, right? It’s sci-fi, made real! Finally, we have the Enterprise’s computer or HAL…hmm, bad example.

These are impressive tools. But it’s important to recognize what they are…and what they aren’t. Despite seeming incredibly smart at times, these large language models (LLMs) are exceedingly dumb. They’re not AI by any means (it’s a pop term which has now lost most of its previous meaning).

At their core, they are advanced autocorrect and autofill platforms. Yet that can still be useful. I’ll get to how this impacts credit unions and your members, but first, we have to understand what these systems really are. Lots of hype, not enough data.

Sidenote: I am not going into the image generation models here. They exist, they probably have more downsides than benefits, and I make fun little graphics for blog posts with them. I’m also not including their enormous energy needs, which isn’t great.

Better. Good enough?

Keyboard Autocomplete

Take out your phone (if you’re not already using it now). Start writing an email. Notice how it suggests the next word above your keyboard? If you keep tapping an option, you’ll eventually get a run-on sentence that might, or might not, be total gibberish. (iOS 17 will improve that dramatically)

This is how ChatGPT, Bard, or anything based on them works, too. It predicts the next word based on what has already been output. “But Joe, not only did you have a whole interview with ChatGPT, it can do all sorts of complicated things!”

You’re right. And there’s absolutely a place for this technology. We just need to recognize where it does and does not fit.

What makes sense for a ChatGPT-type platform:

  • Organizing tasks
  • Laying out a social media or blogging schedule
  • Adopting a certain tone in a piece
  • Helping write a first draft of code, formulas, or other content
  • Creating frameworks for replicated processes
  • Diving into a topic you’re already familiar
  • Member interactions that are a step above the 1st generation chatbots, but worse than a person

Here’s what you should not rely on these systems to do:

  • Replace copywriters (or anyone, really)
  • Copy/paste content from it for use in any context not explicitly presented as “ChatGPT-generated”
  • Give you answers without having other sources available
  • Get medical advice
  • Use in legal arguments (unless you want to forever be known as the lawyer who presented made-up cases in front of a judge)

Hallucinations: On being wrong

AI Hallucinations
“Trippy” for computers can mean “make stuff up”

My greatest concern with these platforms is that they’re extremely convincing and certain. I’ve had conversations where it assures me the answer is correct…even when I know it is wrong. Gaslighting to the extreme. This ranged from math questions to factual challenges.

In the legal arguments referenced above, ChatGPT convincingly made up cases which never happened. Why? How?

Remember what it is: An autofill system.

The platform recognized how case records look, how they’re formatted, even trends in how they are resolved. Then, it made up its own to fit that mold. They seemed convincing, because to even trained eyes, they looked like how real case citations should appear.

There’s no motivation towards being “right” or “wrong” with a LLM. The goal of the system is to generate the next word, not fact-check itself. Thus, the tech industry came up with a harmless-sounding term for it: Hallucinations.

In other words, when your chatbot hallucinates, it’s creating new “facts” to fit the response. Lying, you could say, but that infers intent. Once again, a chatbot has no “desire” to be factual or not, only provide a response that seems appropriate.

Sidenote: Interestingly, “hallucinate” was originally a good thing, showing how the chatbot could “imagine” itself as a programming language or other platform. The original definition had nothing to do with making stuff up.

Bias

Bias Scales
Facts aren’t always facts here.

There’s also a danger of bias. While questions about Stalin mention the massive loss of life and human rights violations, it does not for current world leaders. Once again, it’s because the responses are created from content accessible online.

If certain people, policies, or ideas are associated with a lot of disinformation or propaganda, you can bet it will be reflected in answers. Without context or note. What exists, persists.

The Growing Bubble

Expanding Bubbles

Ok, with some background, we can now go back to the bubble. You have noticed just how fast ChatGPT became, well, everywhere. And every tech company (besides Apple) has thrown their shirt into the LLM game as well.

Microsoft has shoved ChatGPT (they invested billions) into Bing search. Google has Bard and is also testing “Search Generative Experience”. Nearly every smaller tech company I know is launching an “AI feature” of some kind, be it Canva, ActiveCampaign, Spark, Adobe, Zoom, and many more.

When a single product concept expands this quickly, across that many industries, I see a bubble. Eventually, interest will stagnate, people will tire of the “convenience”, and these generative chat systems will settle into a more permanent, and subtle, part of our tech world.

I hope.

Of course, the companies profiting from them want this bubble to grow forever.

Google wants to replace web links, keeping you on their sites (and seeing their ads, if you’re not using an adblocker). Nvidia, the graphics card maker powering many of these systems, is keen for it to grow, as they get to sell more units, following the crypto crash (using their cards).

Little players don’t want to seem laggards, so they launch things as well. They’re typically generators for writing or content layout. If these help your overworked marketing team, awesome.

The rush to fake “AI” is a bubble, and running too fast has consequences. Take care with anything you read, see, or hear. You can be sure unscrupulous actors will be using these tools to further drive their agendas and create the illusion of fact or reality.

Your Credit Union

Person and Robot Doing Work at Desk
Work together to unleash your creativity!

We’re here, as promised.

Even after all these cautions, for any credit union not yet using these LLM platforms, I’d still ask, “why not?” Their use cases are substantial, so long as you do not share your member or internal information with them (most systems add that data to the model).

To me, it’s the mundane, repetitive tasks where these systems shine. Need to figure out Excel formulas for some data calculation? Ask (then check to make sure they really do what it says). Want a marketing strategy for a promotion with a rock ‘n roll flair? Describe it.

If you have a blog that suffers from a lack of content, and you have no desire to create quality human-generated material for it, guess what? Your neighborhood LLM can help. Plan out a post schedule, get topic suggestions, and then draft out ideas.

My recommendation would be to create better, human-written, more relevant, and impactful articles, but if that’s not an option, ChatGPT is there.

Human or ChatGPT?

I read a lot of content in our industry. Not all pieces are stellar. Sometimes, on the particularly terrible ones (that I know were written by a human), I create a short prompt for ChatGPT to replicate. Then, I send both results to a friend to play our game: Human or ChatGPT?

Over half the time, we agree the GPT one was a much better article, even if we could recognize some of the LLM traits.

For any institution using staff resources to write these posts, I ask: When a free chat system can do better, why would your members care?

Here’s what you should do

Zooming in On AI Computer
Watch for progress!

Keep a close eye on ChatGPT and other LLMs. Watch the field to see progress, as well as challenges. Understand the benefits and downsides. Talk to your staff to learn if and how they are using them in their own life.

Through your day, make a point of asking one of these writing tools to compose what you have to do next. Get better at clarifying your request to the system (Side-effect: You get better at explaining what you want!). Compare what it creates to what you made.

If it’s as good or better, with no concern of “hallucinations”, use it moving forward!

I’ve commented on LinkedIn how we will eventually get to a point where so much content is generated that the new trendy thing will be to have a human make it! Bubbles and cycles.

Remember, like every other new technology, LLM chatbots are tools. A hammer can be used to bang in a nail or hit someone over the head. It’s up to the owner to decide the use-case. Take the same approach with these. Also please do not hit anyone over the head.

And to send us off, here’s a ditty from ChatGPT:

In the realm of finance’s digital tide,

Credit unions embrace tech as their guide.

With ChatGPT’s aid, they forge a new way,

Empowering members, trust paving the day.

Together they thrive, on innovation they ride.

ChatGPT

1200% More Sharing of Your Social Media Content: Plus Other Tips for Your Credit Union

Your credit union is already on social media. And it rocks, right? No? So what’s missing?

To clarify, social media is not an end upon itself. It’s part of a larger strategy. For that, you need to be looking at your overall Inbound Marketing plan. So how does social media fit in? Now you’re asking the right questions!

This article will help you decide which channels make the most sense, why video is so important, and how much you have to put in for results to follow (less than you think!).

Clapper

I’ll also assume you already have a buyer persona, as this helps you visualize who you’re actually looking to engage.

Why Use Social Media?

In your personal life, social media helps stay in touch with friends and family. Perhaps you get some of your news through it (you wouldn’t be alone; just make sure to fact-check anything you read). You may even follow brands you love for deals and updates.

Hey, wait a second…your credit union is a brand!

Whether personal or business, social media has the same goals:

  • Sharing content your followers care about
  • Inform them and inspire action

Admit it, you swipe past boring posts. Imagine how many miles your finger has swiped…

Ok, so what’s the point of social media? This is going to sound really silly:

  • Sharing media to encourage a social connection

Let’s keep that objective in mind as we look to your credit union’s social presence. We’ll cover:

  • Social media demographics
  • Management tools
  • Importance of video

The objective is to create strong Organic Social Media Marketing. Want to spend money on paid social media marketing? That’s great. It might make sense. We’re not covering it here.

What is Organic Social Media Marketing?

Great question. Organic Social Media Marketing is a way of connecting with customers and potential ones through direct content engagement. In other words, this includes your posts, memes, GIFs, tweets, videos, blogs, and more.

The “organic” part means it’s non-promotional, as in, you didn’t pay to “boost” or sponsor any of it (not to say you won’t or can’t). It can have promotional messaging, but you didn’t pay to get it on their screens.

Organic and paid social media marketing are two sides of the same effort. But unless you like handing your marketing budget over to Facebook with little to show for it, organic is where you want to start.

Who Uses Social Media, Anyway?

In a word, everyone.

People Interconnected

73% of American adults use YouTube. 69% use Facebook. 74% of them sign in every day (myself included). 37% use Instagram. Other platforms include Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Twitter, respectively by usage.

Sidenote: Just because people use a platform doesn’t mean it’s where you should be! Ok, I wanted to get that out before you ran for the nearest post button.

Social media is everywhere. At the coffee shop? Sip, scroll, sip, scroll the Facebook feed. Commuting to work? Check out that Instagram feed (and I sure hope they’re not driving). Out to a work lunch? You know at least one is checking LinkedIn for job offers.

These people are doing more than connecting with friends, celebrities, and job opportunities on social media. They’re also engaging with brands they buy from and admire (or are considering doing business).

Does Your Financial Institution “Do” Social Media?

What’s your social media presence? Do you have accounts on the big three? (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). If you’re not yet a part of that trifecta, you’re part of a shrinking minority: Nearly 9 out of 10 banks are somewhat or very active on social media.

Only a few years ago, engaging with customers and prospects on social media seemed like the new frontier. Today, it’s old hat. Yet not everyone does it well, so it can represent a unique opportunity when you have a plan.

Mastering the art of social media can help you:

  • Raise brand awareness
  • Build community
  • Drive engagement
  • Generate new leads
  • Assist customers with issues promptly and personally

In order to meet expanding consumer expectations, brands on social media must ensure they’re abiding by best practices.

How can you do this in an age of literally “blink-and-it’s-gone” content and fleeting attention spans? By answering the right questions ahead of time. Then, when you do post, you engage people how you want to be seen.

Social Media Platforms

Magnifying Glass on Group of People

Where should your financial institution be? It’s a great question and the answer depends on a few things:

  • Who is your target demographic?
  • What devices do you want to target?
  • What kind of content do you want to post?
  • What is your primary brand message?

Demographics by Generation

If you’re looking to connect with and engage Gen Xers and Boomers, skip Snapchat and Tik Tok. Trust me, they’ve never heard of the latter. But their kids or grandkids are on it right now.

Aiming for the Gen Z audience? They’re not heavily represented on LinkedIn. However, LinkedIn is great for another field of membership…small businesses. LinkedIn has a high concentration of college-educated, upper management American workers and business owners.

Why care about them? Can anyone say, “small business services”?

Plus, since LinkedIn leans towards B2B, you open another opportunity: New partners for your CU SEG.

Overwhelmed? Ok. Start small with the 3 most popular platforms for financial institutions:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram (following Twitter 2.0)
  • LinkedIn

Feeling ambitious and shutter-happy? Add TikTok to the mix, and while there, consider Threads for text content.

Demographics by Platform

Here’s a 2023 breakdown of the demographics of each social media platform:

  • Facebook: 69% of Americans use Facebook; a majority of virtually every demographic uses the platform, only excluding <18 and >65
  • TikTok: Most popular for people in their 20s (150M+ active users in US, using it for an average of 45 minutes a day)
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s user base is pretty evenly spread across ages 18-64 but is most popular with ages 30-49
  • Instagram: Instagram leans toward a younger audience; there’s a dropoff in users once you hit age 30; mostly concentrated on ages 13-29 (Gen Z!)

When you choose platforms, you also need to make sure your content works on it. The way you write for LinkedIn is different than Facebook posts or content on Threads. And then there’s video. Which I strongly encourage you embrace. We’ll cover it at the end.

Twitter 2.0

Then there’s the Musk-factor. Whatever your opinion on him, Twitter is not the same platform after he purchased it. In my experience, exposure and usage is far down; you’re now punished if you don’t pay for “Twitter Blue”.

Personally, I would recommend looking at your tweet insights and skipping Twitter if they aren’t worthwhile. There are numerous credit unions with curated tweets which only reach a dozen or so people. That’s not worth your time.

Social Media Management Tools

Wrenches on Wall

Automation that makes sense is where it’s at. You’re busy. Save time and get great insights into the activity, performance, and engagement across all your social channels.

Social media management platforms exist to make your life easier.

Using a social media management tool helps you save time, stay organized, optimize efficiency, keep a pulse on your audience, and respond to comments, complaints, or questions promptly.

Here are a few of the more popular options:

*I use or have used these platforms for social media management

Content Resources

If you’re working with limited resources (and who isn’t?), you can explore free or low-cost tools like Canva (I may receive compensation if you sign up using this link) for graphic design or Biteable and Vyond (formerly GoAnimate) for video creation tools.

None of these are as good as an in-house designer, but you get a lot for the investment.

Sidenote: My company’s eBooks are created using Canva.

Take One: Video

A primer on my company’s Learning Library

Video content is where it’s at. If you’re not recording, you’re missing out. In 2019, 81% of businesses used video as a marketing tool. Mobile video consumption doubles every year. Video posts get shared 1200% more often than text and images alone.

See a bunch more mind-blowing video stats.

You don’t need a videographer, studio, and professional equipment. Sure, they help, but you can get far with a phone, tripod, and microphone (lavalier). Modern phone cameras are high-quality, and this also gives your content a homemade and authentic feel.

Since your credit union is about connecting real people, humanizing your video content delivers real value. Make videos which are entertaining, funny, or informative. Even if they’re not great, the only way you’ll learn and improve is to keep pressing record.

We made this at a conference, just because.

Video is only going to get more popular, and it’s rapidly becoming the preferred form of content consumption across all social media platforms.

Hiring The Pros?

Video Camera Set

So when does it make sense to invest in the professional? If you’re creating a brand video to tell your credit union story (please, please, please, don’t spend 75% of the video talking about how you’re a unique community institution), make it memorable.

Spend some money and get it recorded with the perfect lighting, background music, transitions, logo bumpers, and overall feel.

What’s your brand worth? Convey it to current and prospective customers at its clearest and finest.

Start Sharing!

Now that you understand the appeal for each service, you can better decide which makes the most sense. Remember, your resources are limited and it’s 100% ok to not do them all at once. Start where you believe the best return will be.

Oh, and final note: Get everyone involved! Share content from your IT team, your CEO, loan officers, and satisfied members. If your culture is inclusive, show, don’t tell your growing followers!

Blog Management Tools Your Credit Union Can Use [2020]

Originally published on CUInsight.com

It takes more than just some ideas to keep a blog running. (If only!) On this system, there are a series of platforms and services which work together. Let’s discuss each and how they contribute to the overall success.

Then, we’ll look at how you can use these strategies to improve your own blogging and social media efforts.

What? You don’t have a blog or other learning portal for members to access? For the sake of your social and search presence, get started today!

Since that’s part of what my company educates on, I’m here to help!

With so much being done remotely, it’s essential to provide the relationship members expect through your digital channels. And telling stories, sharing updates, or educating on relevant topics all falls into this guidance.

Scheduled Posts

Every so often, typically on Tuesdays, a new post appears (Updated for 2020!). You get a notification, e-mail, tweet, or some other thing, which directs you here. And I am super appreciative that you visit.

Even if it’s just to see if your name is mentioned. Sarah, Steve, Phil, Mohammad, Lorraine, Shanice, Ashley, Qui-Gon…are you a winner? There’s always next time.

No matter what moved you to action, you are here now. Yet what made this post appear? Was I sitting on a device debating when to press Post? Well, yes, I do that, but not in this case.

Airport Flights Screen
Ha, remember when we looked at flight charts and went to airports?

I use the post scheduler to keep a consistent flow of content, even if I happen to be busy at that time. I’m sure you never find yourself suddenly occupied when other obligations are waiting…

Whatever platform you use, it supports scheduled posts. At one point, I had over a year of content scheduled on this blog. That’s back when I was really good at writing and prioritizing. It was also a bit crazy.

The Guts of the System

What’s it like behind the curtains, down the rabbit’s hole, outside the Matrix? To be honest, it’s pretty similar to the world you inhabit.

I just have mad hatters, agents with equally mad martial arts skills, and a reasonably unhappy (did you think I’d say “mad”?) wizard who is not a wizard at all.

Whew, how many references did I even make there? No time to count, we’ve got to talk about the blog platform!

WordPress

To start, Credit Union geek is built using WordPress. More than half the internet uses this platform, and to no big surprise. It’s easy to craft to your needs, quickly, easily, and without a lot of technical knowledge.

Security Concerns

Because WordPress is so widespread, security fixes are released within hours. With a strong password (Also updated for 2020!), a WordPress site is as safe as one could expect online.

I used to use an extension called WordFence, which blocks suspicious activity and also visitors who are likely up to no good. That’s just the surface of its functionality, and I’d at least look at it and similar products before launching.

Wait, used to?

Yes, I no longer keep this plugin going, as I tightened up the security of my site through other means. The reason for the change? Performance impacts.

For maximum performance, go with a platform that does scanning off-server. What that means is your own system doesn’t do the work; it’s passed off. This won’t be free. But it could be reasonably priced.

The other sideswipe here was at slow hosting providers (you know who you are). You can load up a site with all sorts of capabilities, but if the hosting is under par, it’s going to drag. On fast hosting, even a poorly-optimized site flies.

Sharing Content, or, Ensuring You Know It Exists

For sharing, I take a few paths. My goal is to be where you are. If that’s this site, great. Only I cannot expect all of you to come here daily! No one’s stopping you. 🙂 However, to get proper reach, I’ve got to go social!

Twitter

Twitter

The most common is Twitter. When on my computer, I use the Tweetdeck web-app. On my iPad and iPhone, I use Twitterrific. I can follow trending topics (Yes, updated for 2020!), schedule posts, and see all my interactions on one screen.

But what if you’re not on Twitter? Or, even if you are, it’s easy to miss a few posts. In case you didn’t notice, a lot of people use it. And some of them post far too much (often while saying far too little).

Thus, Twitter isn’t my only outreach medium.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn

I also share all my posts on LinkedIn using their Article platform. To inform people of their existence, I sometimes post on a variety of credit union-focused LinkedIn groups.

Unfortunately, activity on those groups fell over the years. After watching posts get 0 engagements over the course of months, I pulled away as well. The groups were great, so if you’re ready to come back, I am, too!

Shameless plug: Our company maintains a LinkedIn Group called Credit Unions: Post-COVID-19. Sure, we’re not “post” anything yet, but it’s about looking ahead to plan for what the near and medium-term future will hold.

Anyway, I see LinkedIn as my main area for interaction. Despite not liking their mobile app, I’ve put it back in my phone so I can check notifications and comment on related industry posts.

Do you use LinkedIn, and, if so, for what purposes? (If it’s for finding another job, just say, “Waffle recipes” in the comments. It’ll be our little secret. Also, please share waffle recipes.)

Facebook

Occasionally, I’ll share on Facebook to friends and family. Since this is business-related content, most don’t care. So it’s less common than all other mediums.

If you’re looking to engage with members, you’ll want to use this platform. Why? Because they’re on it. Instagram, too, which Facebook owns and anyone under 35 uses.

E-mail

Of course, readers can easily subscribe and receive new posts by e-mail. Do you? Because it’s the best way to get your dose of Geek.

Software Platforms

I’ve tried a lot of software over the years. Some don’t exist anymore. Others evolved to a point of being more frustration than productive. A few are new entrants I consider carefully.

ActiveCampaign – E-mail & Tracking

For e-mail campaign efforts, I use our company’s CRM platform: ActiveCampaign. These managed messages inform readers of my speaking availability (I’m way cooler in person, once it’s safe to do so again) or new posts.

Hey, there’s always web events!

It’s also a great way to let people know about full rewrite updates like those you see mentioned in this post. Plus, chances are, you weren’t reading back in 2014. Yet I’ve got some good stuff to surface from then!

ActiveCampaign gives me the flexibility to set up automations based on recipient activity, track open rates, and much more. It’s an ongoing process of learning what it can do, then discovering features just added.

Buffer – Social Media Management

Social Media Icons

With my priorities leaning towards our company’s Learning Library, I’ve been lax on use of this system. What is Buffer?

In a few words, it’s a single service to manage all your social media activity. Schedule posts, watch engagement, and much more. It works on desktop and mobile just as easily.

I really like how it lets you set up a bunch of posts, then have it automatically post them on a schedule you define ahead of time. They’ll even suggest best times for engagement on each service.

To explain: I can have Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn connected to Buffer. Each has their own posts ready, abiding to individual schedules. It’s all your social activity, on one screen. Pretty cool, right?

Audio Posts

Microphone

When the mood strikes me, I’ll make an audio post. Why not video, you ask? Because the lighting and layout of my office isn’t ideal. I’ve tried. The audio is the better solution right now.

Update: I wrote this section pre-COVID-19. So, I had not given video a chance (without a tripod, that is). Now, I can make standing videos in my living room. You may have seen some of them over the past few months.

Whether video or audio, making recorded content isn’t a huge challenge. I used to use my AirPods as the microphones, but my new Mac has even better microphones. I just open Quicktime or Voice Memos and start talking.

It exports from both as a high-quality m4a file. That’s it!

Web Apps – Everything Else

To be honest, for most activities, I just use the website. Twitter posts? Tweetdeck, since it’s Twitter as it should be (without all the extra garbage).

LinkedIn? The website. It’s not great, but there’s no easier way to browse my feed to find relatable content.

Content creation? I used to use Evernote, but transitioned to Google Drive/Docs in the last year. When copying from the latter, it retains formatting in WordPress best. Plus, I can get to it/edit on any device with the same formatting controls.

At the end of the day, my goal is to not be tied to any one device. If I need to do something and all that’s available is my phone, it should work. It’s not ideal, but doable.

What’s Your Process?

I speak to a lot of credit union marketing and social media folks (Cleaned up for 2020!). They each have their own process for engaging members. I hope this post can help you decide on the best tools for your task.

Light Bulb Chalkboard

On your system, you may want things like chatbots to help serve members. Internally, different data analytics (Updated for 2020!) can assist in better engaging opportunities.

Just remember, tools are only as good as their user. I await the AI platform which writes, formats, hosts, and publicizes creative insights into the credit union industry.

Of course, then I won’t be the Credit Union Geek anymore. Unless that has already happened…

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